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I'm starting to create a character in Dungeons & Dragons. Is there a set of rules or standards, or any references or fashion, on creating a character's name?

For example, on D&D Beyond, it asks you to choose a username for your account, and the placeholder text is: "BruenorBattleHammer". How can I create something like this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ But where are my manners? Eduardo, welcome to RPG.SE and to the hobby! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Nov 26 '21 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for your warm welcome @Someone_Evil, I will mark your answer as correct, it helped a lot! I think I have a name already. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26 '21 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: Your username on D&D Beyond is not the same thing as a character name. Your DDB username is just that: a username. (That said, your question itself about whether there are any rules/standards for naming a character is a fine one.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 29 '21 at 17:00
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Let's cover a basic premise first: You can name your character whatever you want. Or perhaps more usefully, you can name your character anything your table/playgroup is ok with. I'll get back to that.

If you want consistency with existing lore, or just not have to come up with a name of your own, each race option has a list of example names (e.g. Elf Names) listed within the description of the race. Using one of those is totally ok. Appendix B to Xanathar's Guide to Everything also has tables of example names at the end of the book, including examples for every non-human PHB race and examples from a variety of real-world cultures.

To explain D&D Beyond's placeholder name: that's the name of one of the example characters from the Player's Handbook. You'll find both parts of that name in the Dwarf name section. (In fact, Bruenor Battlehammer is the name one of the main characters from R. A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt series.)

Choosing a name, and setting tone and expectation for things like names, are a good thing to include in a Session 0. See the question What is a session 0? (and its linked questions and articles) for a starting point.

And as final advice for naming your character, I'll suggest trying for something memorable and pronounceable. And those are related; when I've made characters (be they PCs or NPCs) with an unpronounceable name, it's hard for anyone to remember and they end up being nicknamed with something that is pronounceable. And that isn't always what you're going for. Picking a name from the PHB is a simple and sure way to get something pronounceable, and it's gonna take a hot minute before you get repeats.

I'll also drop the suggestion to make the name evocative. For example, I have an artificer named Tink who's a tinkerer. I'll leave figuring out why my always-willing-to-be-helpful Warforged is called Alexa as an exercise to the reader.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Some tables are fine with names like Jesus “Crusher” Christ II (actual name of an actual PC at a table I played at) and some aren’t. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Nov 26 '21 at 1:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Similarly, I played a game of Starfinder with a fella named Jesus H. Spacechrist. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26 '21 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ 400-level character-naming: choose a name whose first initial is distinct from each other PC. If all players do that, it makes the GM's life just a touch quicker every time they want to reference a PC when jotting notes. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 27 '21 at 3:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I wish I could give you a bounty for that comment! \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 27 '21 at 10:05
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How to choose a name is up to you

In the end, it's all up to you how to choose a name. You could open a dictionary at a random word, look for a name with a specific meaning or use your favorite author, but in the end it is up to you to choose a method to come up with a name.

What makes a name: Parts of a name

A name is more than just one word. In fact, it might have, in its totality, quite many words that each fall into about four categories.

First Name

Almost all people have at least one given name, which is how one identifies as in an intimate peer group. Depending on culture, this name might be dropped for another one later, but in general, everybody has at least one First Name.

If the name gets dropped on adulthood for another, it's often considered a Childhood Name, in contrast to the Adult Name.

A special type of first name is the Order Name, where one changes the original given name for one because one enters some kind of brotherhood or sisterhood. If the name is only used within the order, it is a calling name, if it is a replacement name for the whole world, it's a first name.

Calling Names

The first name isn't always the name one calls out for a person with. Such names could take the form of Stage Names for theatrical people (which can be inherited like in Kabuki), Pen Names ('Richard Bachmann'), Battle Names to protect one's true identity ('Batman'), Deed Names or Commemorative Names ('he who finds water') or in general Nicknames. Sometimes, Nicknames are short for the real name - Cassandra becomes Cass, Richard become Rick.

Then there are Occupational Names which typically indicate the profession of a person and can slip into the surname category, but don't necessarily have to. An example for the latter is 'Smith'.

Derogative Names fall into the same category and can have overlap with the Occupational Names, especially if the occupation is seen down upon - e.g. 'Slave' or 'Gravedigger'.

Some of these calling names might be given by others because the First Name is utterly unpronounceable or far too long! - and might not be a name the character likes. For example, Hepzibah was called that name for it was unpronounceable by the others, but she utterly disliked it in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #107:

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #107

Surnames

Many cultures have some kind of heritage identifier as part of the name. This is typically seen as the Family Name, Lineage Name or Clan Name, but can also consist of several parts. For example, it could consist of a major family Name onto which a Branch Name is affixed.

Then, there are Origin Names, which are typical for when surnames are not common (for a part of society) but are usually only used outside of the own town or province. The typical particle in English to join the locale to the name is 'from', but in some cases is 'of'. As a random example 'Alice from Bobton' separates her from the local Alice when she is in Charlston.

Surnames also can contain nobility particles, like the german von/vom, Dutch van, French de/du or the English of.

Titles

And then there are titles. Often, these are indicators of nobility or special positions and can be used as a complete replacement for all other name parts unless several holders of the same title are present.

Sir, Doctor or Abbot are such examples, but so are military ranks. Landed nobility can often be called by their land: The Lord of Worchestershire can be addressed by this title alone.

Names for Gaming

Now, I have pointed in several areas to cultural quirks on naming practices. Yes, names are indicative of a culture of origin. Also, some names fit into some games but not into others, because there is a culture that matches or belongs to the game's setting. So, let's explore that first with some examples:

If a name fits the setting is setting and culture dependant

Now, if you are worried if a name fits a setting, the litmus test for modern names fitting into a setting's culture is pretty much if there is a culture that is similar enough to the name's culture of origin. So, for example, the name...

  • ...Tachibana Mamoru. That name feels right at home in a game of set in medieval Japan or into a game of set in an Anime world. Both use the Japanese naming format and typical Japanese names. But it feels alien in a game in .
  • ...Sir Arthur Allan Francis Pickering. With a name like that, this person feels right at home in a game set in the late 1800s to about 1930, and in fact, I would expect such a name in a game of in the 1920 - and that this person is British. But it feels alien in a game.
  • ..."Wyrmskinner". Being a Calling Name, this one would fit a fantasy setting where one skins draconian beings by the name of Wyrm just as much as it fits into a game of . But it might not be the only name that character has.

These random examples show one thing: Names belong to settings. Or rather, Names belong to cultures within a setting and indicate them. As long as the game contains a culture, it can contain the name: Mr. Tachibana Mamouru could also be the Japanese bookworm in a Cthulhu group or the corporate Werewolf from Tokyo. Sir Pickering might be a British Gaijin in a game of Sengoku or just a snobby Brit in a game of Werewolf.

Consult your sourcebooks!

Now, when does a name fit a fantasy game's culture, which might be entirely invented by the authors? That is the question you ought to ask yourself. Often, games publish source material that contains cultural (or, a D&D calls it inappropriately: racial) information, including for fantasy species. And this information often contains a sample list of names.

These name lists are usually picking up the setting and the cultures depicted in them. In the list for the 2017 Conan RPG, we learn that typical Cimmerian names are Ronan and Wenna 1. In the supplement for Elven Culture in The Dark Eye 4, we learn that Elves in Aventuria have at least two names, one of which is in the elven tongue and unique while the other is either a group name or 'nickname' that is typically in elven too but is usually told to humans translated into the regional tongue. By mix-matching the parts from the example list, Mandara "Hazelbush" is just as typical as Delayar "Spearseeker" for an Aventurian Elf 2.

And in case it is Forgotten Realms: Consult Dragon Magazine

And then there's Owen K.C. Stephens, who wrote for Dragon Magazine. Among other things, he wrote an article suggesting an Elven Name Generator in Dragon 251 3. In fact, he wrote also the Dwarven names for 261, as he tells us in a blogpost, and seems to be responsible for several entries in the "By any other name" series of articles, such as Gnomes (#262) and the Underdark (#267).


  1. Conan - Adventures in an Age undreamed of (2017), p.48
  2. Aus Licht und Traum - Die Elfen Aventuriens (2006), p.57-58
  3. Owen K.C. Stephens: By Any Other Name; in: Dragon Magazine #251 (1998), pp.52
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The Player's Handbook gives example names for each race, so you could start there. If you don't like any of those, there are lots of sources to take names form. You can borrow a character name from your favorite fantasy novel, maybe modify it somewhat or chose something similar to it. Coming up with a name used to be the hardest part of character creation for me when I first started playing, but it doesn't have to be. One resource which came out in the 3.0 days and my friend gifted me after seeing me struggle with names is Gary Gygax's Big Book of Names. This made a big difference for me.

Nowadays things are much simpler. If you can't come up with a name, simply use a random name generator. For example https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/ has all sorts of name generators. You can generate a generic medieval name, or generate a name based on a specific race, or a specific genre (pirate names, for example). The great thing is that it gives you several different ones, and if you don't like any, you can click generator again and get a bunch more until you find one you like. You can even mix and match if you see a first and last name you like together.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably worth mentioning that D&D Beyond has built-in access to the same name generator you mention, since the asker mentions they are using that site? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26 '21 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ neat, didn't know that \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27 '21 at 0:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know where to find it on there. I'm also not sure how to at people, or does that only work in comments? Probably best if you just edit the answer \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27 '21 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ So there’s a “generate name” option above the name field in the D&D Beyond character builder. (The @ happens automatically when you hit reply on a comment, but it doesn’t always appear.) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27 '21 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewADeMarco this meta post has all you could want to know about how @ interfaces with SE posts =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 28 '21 at 4:49
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Most of the time, you can just make whatever name you want.

There are no character name restrictions within 5e itself, though there are two basic situations where you might run into some.

Your DM might have come up with some character naming rules of their own, in which case you should ask them.

Depending on how roleplaying-oriented the group is, you may need some sort of explanation as to why your character has whatever name you come up with. An Elf named John Smith, for example, would probably only work a backstory about how their father was saved by a Human once and vowed to name one of his children after the guy (or something like that). Note that this isn't usually a restriction on what names you can pick, you just might need an in-game reason for your character to have a particular name.

There are a few different methods you might want to try, and none of them are more "correct" than the others. In no particular order, they are:

  • The books tend to have a short list of common names for any given race. You can just use names out of there and they'll be fine 99% of the time.
  • You may be able to use real-world names, though this mainly applies to Human characters.
  • There are various name generators in various places around the internet. A quick Google search will typically turn up at least a few, at least for Player's Handbook races. For less common races, particularly if your DM came up with one or more homebrew options, this might not be available.
  • One I use sometimes is to come up with a short list of words that either describe the character or that would be important to them. Then, smash bits and pieces of different words together until you get something that sounds good. This one takes a bit more time, but it will (usually) get you a unique name.
    • As an example for this one, let's say I'm trying to come up with a name for a Gold Dragonborn Paladin. A few obvious descriptor words for him would be gold, dragon, strong/strength, and honor.
    • I could combine dragon and strong to get Drong. That doesn't sound great, so what if I change it to Dron or Dren? Those sound better, but maybe there's something else I'll like more. Plus, Dron would probably be pronounced the same as drawn, and it might be better to head off any obvious character name jokes before the other players have a chance to crack them.
    • I could combine honor and gold to get Honold. Another not-very-good one, but what if we distort it into Nold-something? Toss in the end of dragon to make it Noldon?
    • And so on, Basically just go through this process until you're satisfied.
  • The last one, and another I tend to use, is essentially the same as #4 except you run the words through some translation software (Google can do this) into a thematically-appropriate language. If I'm making a character from some sort of 'frozen North' type region, I'd start by looking at languages from cold regions (Russian, Swedish, Icelandic, etc). If I'm making a Gladiator sort of character, maybe I'd look at Latin or Greek, and so on.
    • This one tends not to need as much time for mashing pieces of words together, since you can get away with just using entire words, but adds some time for actually looking up translations, so it usually works out to somewhere around the same amount of time.
    • One thing to note, with this one, is that you might want to avoid using any languages that the DM or other players can speak. It wouldn't necessarily be terrible for one of them to notice that your character's first name translates into "strongguy," but it's usually pretty easy to avoid.
  • You could also find some way to come up with random collections of letters and see what you can arrange them into. Sweep your hand across your keyboard without looking, grab a copy of Scrabble and pull out random letter tiles from it, Open a random book to a random page and see what letters are the first on each line, whatever. See what you get, rearrange them into something that sounds good, and repeat until you're satisfied.
  • Last but not least, you can also just ... make something up. I generally don't do it, because I'm terrible at it, but if you can just make up something that sounds good you can usually use that name for a character.

One of the few methods that I would advise against is using the name of a different character from some show/book/whatever that you like. Even if no one else involved in the game is familiar with it, it's likely to put you in the mindset to play that character instead of one of your own, which isn't really conducive to having a fun time.

There are lots of methods, probably including a few I didn't think of. Just figure out which one(s) work best for you and you should be fine.

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